Mobile phone networks – including 5G – are safer than sunlight says experts.

Studies over the past 30 years show there is no proof that radio waves used by mobile phones will adversely affect people's health, a communications industry executive says.

Vodafone spokesperson Rich Llewellyn says around 25,000 studies have been conducted in that time on the effects of mobile technology on humans and "none have found that the radio waves used by 5G, or 2G, 3G and 4G would impact people's health."

He says every new mobile network upgrade since the first in 1987 has been besieged by claims that the electromagnetic radiation from phones and cell towers is potentially harmful.

"Fears about the potential impact of technology are not new – for example vaccinations were being protested against as far back as the late 1800's. Every use of radio spectrum over the last century, from radios, to TV's, to microwaves has led to the same sorts of questions, which is why there have been so many studies conducted over the decades.

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"We are aware a small number of people have concerns around 5G – and we are also aware it can be very difficult to distinguish misinformation from credible, peer-reviewed scientific research.

"A challenge is that the internet is a fantastic means to share information; however it is also a fantastic means to share misinformation, including around topics such as vaccination, fluoride in water and now radio waves.

"It is simply false to say that the effects of radio frequency radiation on humans, animals and plants have not been studied extensively and in great detail.

"5G will shape the future of many sectors and is vital to the ongoing success and wellbeing of New Zealand," he says. "This will deliver benefits across health, transportation, integrated manufacturing, utilities, safety, waste management and intelligent electricity networks amongst others."

Rich Llewellyn, Vodafone Head of External Affairs. Photo / Supplied
Rich Llewellyn, Vodafone Head of External Affairs. Photo / Supplied

Llewellyn says with 5G already live in many countries, Vodafone believes it is important New Zealand businesses and communities are not disadvantaged or left behind.

Engineer and science educator Dr Michelle Dickinson, also known as Nanogirl, says the findings referred to by Llewellyn are based on good, solid foundations.

"Radiation is divided into two broad categories – ionising and non-ionising," Dickinson says. "Radio-frequency radiation from phones and cell towers is non-ionising; it simply doesn't carry enough energy to ionise or strip electrons from atoms and molecules."

She says radio-frequency radiation doesn't have enough energy to damage DNA and is safer than high-energy ionising radiation like X-rays or ultraviolet sunlight.

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Dickinson says the next generation of 5G will use very high-frequency signals – in the millimeter wave spectrum – which will bring a massive performance boost.

She says millimeter wave radio signals are non-ionising with low energy. They have a much shorter range than lower frequency radio signals used for mobile services and are far less able to penetrate objects: in fact they can scatter in rain, similar to satellite signal fade.

"Yes, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said mobile devices are possibly carcinogenic – it put them in the same category as coffee, pickles and being a carpenter," she says. "This is unhelpful as there is no evidence whatsoever that confirms any ill-health consequences from exposure to low-energy electromagnetic fields from phones."

Llewellyn points to a fact sheet recently released by our Ministry of Health, which outlines the scientific research that had been conducted and applies to the next generation cellular network technology, or 5G.

It states: "Existing research into the health effects of RF (radio frequency) fields covers all the frequency bands proposed for 5G…the New Zealand Standard for RF field exposure also covers them."

Furthermore, under a heading of 'Exposures from 5G sites' the fact sheet notes the new antennas used in 5G "will most likely result in lower exposures than if existing technologies were used."

He says as always, some will look to profit from people's fears. There are books available with advice on how to protect against electromagnetic radiation, there is a thriving market for add-ons for mobile phones that promise to 'shield against radiation'.

He says there is a large amount of credible research published for people wanting to make up their own minds about the issue: "In the social media era, there is a lot of misinformation circulating on platforms like Facebook. If you're concerned about negative health impacts of any technology, make sure you look at factual scientific research from credible sources."

Llewellyn says the following links can offer useful information:

www.health.govt.nz/our-work/radiation-safety
www.who.int/peh-emf/en